WBUR: With ‘My Brilliant Friend,’ TV Advances Its Case For A New Form Of Brilliance


Erin Trahan – Nov 16, 2018

Women in movies rarely turn out to be Keyser Söze or craft the impossible diamond heist. If women do pop up as “masterminds” they tend to be demonized (“Misery,” “Fatal Attraction”) or come in second (“Ocean’s 8,” “Ghostbusters” round two). Occasionally women’s genius is used as a shocking plot twist. OMG, a woman spy? I never saw that coming!

Meanwhile, television has become a slightly more forgiving and fertile ground for brilliant women. Because the serial form favors character and relationship development, even leads in procedural crime dramas like “The Killing” or “The Fall” have the chance to craft memorable roles. Those characters play off male partners, like Claire Underwood does in “House of Cards,” but they’re among a growing rank of cunning women on TV.

Punishment for “craziness” still lingers (can we please cut Carrie Mathison some slack?) but an exciting trend that unites a slew of dissimilar shows has been emerging: Their lead characters’ braininess drives the plot. In “Damages” and “Revenge,” two shows from earlier in the decade, shrewd women exchange reins, while in the still-running “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” one woman attempts to harness her nimble mind on and off the comedic stage. (Fingers crossed she stays sane.)

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